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Interviews

 



Introduction

Although on average, less than one-fourth of all applicants are invited for a personal interview, schools will not accept a candidate without one. This should suggest just how important the interview is in the overall selection process. Among those students deemed acceptable candidates according to the first four categories listed above, most schools typically invite at least three prospective candidates for interviews for each new class opening. Only one of these invitees will be offered admission. For this reason, you must realize that a strong interview represents an important piece of the total consideration given applicants for admission.

Much of your success at the interview depends on your personal effectiveness (eye contact, handshake, personal attire, greeting, confidence, physical demeanor, etc.) as much as your answers to questions. For this reason, practicing your interview is important. Use your committee evaluation interview as a mock interview.

What Makes For a Poor Interview

No matter how well qualified academically you may be, a poor interview definitely reduces your chance of receiving an acceptance. According to the Dean of Admissions at Stanford University School of Medicine, “Far too many interviewees are unprepared for the interview process”.  It is essential that you take these interviews very seriously.

Many well-qualified health professional school candidates ruin their chances for acceptance by making poor impressions during the interview process. Although they have top grades and test scores, many students:

  • are unable to appropriately articulate their goals
  • fail to explain their fit for a specific school
  • cannot explain any obvious weaknesses in their application
  • do not sell their strengths
  • fail to demonstrate emotional maturity and common social skills
  • fail to demonstrate a passion for medicine
  • do not ask intelligent questions
  • are unable to understand the Admissions Office goals
  • demonstrate weak verbal/communication skills
  • talk too much
  • fail to send a thank you letter to the primary interviewer

Interview Process

Understanding that a personal interview will be required for acceptance to medical/dental school, they typically take place at the school and applicants are normally interviewed by two or more members of an admissions board. The interviewers can be faculty members of the school, practicing physicians in the area, current students, or professional staff members of the admissions office.

Without question, for most students, the interview can be the most nerve-wracking part of the entire candidate admission process. The typical format of the personal interview varies from school to school. The interviews can be one on one in the interviewer’s office or they can involve a more formal panel type of interview.

Information about you available to the interviewers may vary considerably. Some schools prefer that all candidates are interviewed “blind”. Under these conditions the interviewer has no access to the student’s application and has no previous knowledge of the candidate. Other schools provide the interviewers with all the background information possible, and still others may use a semi-blind format withholding some information from the interviewer, for example GPA and test scores perhaps. Be aware that “stress” interviews, although not common, are usually designed to challenge your opinions and are done on purpose to see how you handle yourself. If possible try and find out which type of format a school is using in order to better prepare for your interview. No matter what the nature of the interview format, the interviewee must be prepared to be articulate, show confidence without arrogance, and avoid “yes” and “no” answers to questions.

Prior to the Interview

Find out everything that you can about the school that has invited you for an interview.  Learn something about its history, reputation of its faculty, or anything that makes them particularly unique. Such information not only helps you become more excited about the school but it also provides a base for things to ask about at the interview.

  • Are they a big research institution? If so is there a particular research area that you might possess interest?
  • Do they specialize in certain areas of medicine, perhaps primary care for instance?
  • Where does this institution rank in the latest ratings?
  • Do they offer a traditional approach to medical education or are they trying something viewed as innovative? Many institutions use a problem-based learning approach while attempting to get their students into clinical settings as early as possible.
  • How do they evaluate performance? What is their grading philosophy? It can vary from a straight Pass/Fail to a more traditional High Honors/Honors/ Pass/No Pass system. (Note that this latter system of evaluation may be more important when competing for residency positions.)

Proper Attire/Appearance

While business casual seems to be the norm in many different fields, dressing up in a suit for a medical school interview has really never gone out of style. Appropriate attire supports your image and you should understand the nature of the dress code in professional field of medicine of which you hope to enter. Research shows that within 4-7 minutes of an interview a typical interviewer decides whether or not to seriously consider you for admission partly based on your appearance, which is an important factor in the decision-making process.

Dress conservatively. Definitely shed your undergraduate student image. Don’t come to the interview looking too casual. Wear clothing that does not make you stand out as anything other than neat, conservative, and well groomed.

Men: Well- fitted suit in navy, gray, or black (pinstripe or solid) or navy blazer and gray dress slacks; white or light blue dress shirt; tie (silk or silk-like) that contrasts with the color of your suit and contains understated patterns; dark socks (mid-calf) and dress shoes (lace-up, or leather slip-ons in either black or brown); leather belt that matches your shoes. A full-length coat, as nice as you can afford, may be worn over your suit. Avoid flashy cuff links, rings and neck chains. No earrings. Your belt should match your shoes. If you have a beard or mustache, it should be clean and neatly trimmed. Cologne should be minimal or not worn at all.

Women: Well-fitted two-piece matched suit, blouse, pantsuit, or skirt with hosiery and basic dark flats or low pumps. Choose a dark or neutral shade like black, navy, brown or gray for your suit. Wear plain style, non-patterned hosiery; minimal or natural-looking makeup; and clean nails or clear nail polish that is not chipped. Nail length should not be excessively long. Minimize jewelry - avoid dangling earrings and wear no more than one ring per hand and a dress watch. Jewelry, scarves and other accessories will add a polished touch to any outfit. Use minimal natural looking makeup if any, small jewelry, and avoid BIG hair. Perfume should be minimal or not worn at all.

Definite Dont's of Interview Dressing:

  • No visible body piercings beyond conservative ear piercing
  • No stale breath….well-brushed teeth and breath are a must
  • No gum, candy, or other objects in your mouth
  • No excessive or flashy jewelry
  • No body odor….use deodorant
  • No skirts above the knee-length
  • No revealing or seductive clothing
  • No pastel-colored suits or flowered fabrics
  • No short sleeve shirts
  • No “ties that tell a story” for men
  • No unpolished shoes
  • No visible tattoos
  • No bad personal habits

What Are the Interviewers Looking For?

The role of the interviewer is to get to know you and the help the Admissions Committee/Office select the best candidates from the pool of applicants that they invite for an interview. Looking at academic ability is only one factor. Remember that most applicants that they interview have very similar levels of academic accomplishments. They want to select the best fit for their institution. During the interview they will consider the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses in areas that may include:

  • Communication attributes
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Interest in serving the needs of others
  • Depth of medical experience
  • Maturity
  • Ability to relate to people
  • Motivation for medicine
  • Ability to handle stress
  • Realistic understanding of medicine
  • Depth of extracurricular activities
  • Right fit for medicine
  • Right fit for their school

Sample Interview Questions  


Possible Questions to Ask the Interviewers

In order to demonstrate your level of interest in pursuing professional education, you should be fully prepared to ask the interviewer(s) questions. While doing this, avoid asking questions on material already covered in the medical school websites or brochures. Intelligent and insightful questions will help demonstrate your most “professional self”.

  • Are there opportunities for students to design, conduct, and publish their own research?
  • Is there flexibility in the course work (the number of electives) and the timing of the courses (accelerating, decelerating, and time off) during the pre-clinical and clinical years?
  • How do students from this medical school perform on National Board Examinations? How does the school assist students who do not pass?
  • How are students evaluated academically? How are clinical evaluations performed?
  • What kind of academic, personal, financial, and career counseling is available to students? Are these services also offered to their spouses?
  • Is there a mentor/advisor system? Who are the advisors--faculty members, other students, or both?
  • How diverse is the student body?
  • Tell me about the library and extracurricular facilities.
  • What type of clinical sites — ambulatory, private preceptors, private hospitals, rural settings — are available or required? Does this school allow for students to do rotations at other institutions or internationally.
  • Is a car necessary? Is parking a problem?
  • Is there budgeting & financial planning assistance?
  • What medical school committees (e.g., curriculum committee) have student representation?
  • Are students involved in (required or voluntary) community service?
  • Does this school provide vaccinations against Hepatitis B or prophylactic AZT treatment in case of a needle-stick or accident?
  • What are typical residency programs to which recent graduates were accepted?
  • What would a typical 1st year academic work load look like?
  • Do you have an orientation/mentoring program for 1st year students?

 

*Information on this site was adapted from resources provided by the Career Services Center at the University of Delaware: http://www.udel.edu/CSC/

 

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